Jane Eyre Repurposed

I have to keep reminding myself that I crave summer all the other months of the year when the unrelenting heat rolls in.  Most of the time it’s not difficult to love every moment of the season, even on the comforting rainy days, but when it feels sweltering day after day even I start craving the cooler weather again, and that is saying something.

Also of note:  took advantage of the Prime deal of buying almost any ebook and getting thirty percent of the cost of that book off another book.  I got Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami in tight runnings with The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood or The House at Riverton by Kate Morton.  Feel free to comment on my choices.  With my credit I found a book on my wish list on that magical deep amazon discount and got it for nothing!  It’s a scary book and I am contemplating if I need to do a third year of scary book posts so that identity shall remain hidden.

Today’s book is like last week’s book:  not so much a re-telling, but more a repurposing of characters.  Kinda like upcycling, but the original hasn’t exactly been discarded.  And, speaking of upcycling, a stand that I sanded and painted and put other handles on to make into a nightstand fifteen years ago has found a home in my she shed, all over again.  She shed could also be ready for blog show off.  My husband has to put out the electricity but that won’t change the aesthetics of a pictures!  The heat has made me spend less time out there than I would, too, as I don’t have a way to turn on the ceiling fan.  Yet.

But repurposing.  Jane Eyre was also repurposed in Texts from Jane Eyre, which is entirely a hilarious creation of imagined text conversations between famous literary characters.  She’s pretty easy to repurpose, being strong in her principles and very clear as to have survived all these years as a literary heroine.  She lends herself well to a new coat of paint, commenting on a current social situation that you well know her principles would not allow her to either be neutral about or keep quiet.  Like, who wouldn’t want her blogging about the president right about now?  Epic.

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The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde

This was a re-read.  It was a gift in graduate school and I read it on a solo flight to Iowa to interview for an internship.  I had read Jane Eyre by that point, but this book has a lot going on in it past the Jane Eyre part and I felt back then, in 2007, that it would need another go round.  And it did, even though it was ten plus years later.

This novel takes place in a world where there is still a war being fought with England and characters can come in and out of books, people can slip in and out of time spaces, and just a magical realism sort of world in that magical occurrences are just accepted to be the way of things.  Kind of sci fi with the being able to mess with time and jump into the dimensions of the plot lines of novels or pages of poetry.  Amazon says it’s more alternative history and satire, which, I could see that.  It’s just as I was writing this I was wondering if I shouldn’t have included it with some pending sci fi posts I have on the burner.   But, it is for my re-telling/re-purposing theme and there it will stay.

The protagonist actually has more doings with Rochester than Jane.  When she initially falls into the manuscript at a young age, it is the scene where he meets Jane that she falls into, and he has a lot of time in the book where he is not featured so I guess he has time to step out of the book and get involved in events of this world, like a show down the protagonist Thursday has with the villain Acheron, who is stealing characters out of manuscripts with which to otherwise manipulate the world.   She has more direct talks with him during scenes that he isn’t involved with. I do like that their actions change the end of Jane Eyre and having read it I was interested to remember how they did it.  I thought that added something to the book other than Thursday just trying to defeat the challenging and taunting villain with all sorts of powers and abilities as well as trying to get her own life straightened out.

The book can get a little complicated with political discussions, time/space issues, characters in poems and novels, rules of the magic, silly inventions and a tangly past romance.  There isn’t a wonder that I thought I needed another go round after 2007, but most of the best novels are like that.

I thought this would have more literary references that I would understand better now, but the bulk of the references are Shakespeare, and I have never liked him and I have never grown an appreciation later on as an adult. I still feel like these works intended for common and base entertainment are being upheld as real literature.  Like if people hundreds of years from now found episodes of Jersey Shore or Flavor of Love and made all children familiar with them as part of compulsory education.  That’s what it feels like to me.  But I did like the debate over if Shakes really wrote all these plays.

But it needed a revisit and I am glad I did.

She shed pictures to be revealed soon!  As well as more BookRiot categories.  I like the re-tellings but I can’t help myself when there is a reading list.  I just can’t.

 

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Two takes on a classic Russian tale

It is quite a coincidence that both of the books in this post involve snow that doesn’t belong.  Halfway through April we get a sheet of ice where I live, where other people not that far from me are posting warm days outside with small children.

It could be why I feel like I am hosting Sunday brunch with all the tiny birds in the neighborhood.  Even a pair of ducks. The weather just won’t cooperate to feed them.

I sometimes listen to the Myths and Legends podcast on my way home on Wednesdays when my evening commute is at its longest.  I do it to fresh up on basic available plot elements, just to help them be more available when my writing brain needs them. He did  Vasilisa the Beautiful and I was like oh!  I should write that in modern times! I could make the nefarious Baba Yaga sooo cool!

And then The Bear and the Nightingale and Vassa in the Night came to my attention, so my idea was already long taken.  What do you do in such irritation?  Buy them both, of course!  And then read your face off in a weekend to be able to review them in the same post!  Living the dream, people.

I wish I had written either one of these.  I’d be happy with that.

While they share the same fairy tale as a starting point, these are two very different books.

A book set in or about one of the five BRICs countries:

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The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden

This was almost scooped by my recent purchase of An Association of Small Bombs, but this one is YA and not quite so real life.  And it waited and pined for me longer.

While the plot line diverges from the original, I think the atmosphere reflects the intention of the original fairy tale. There is still Vasilisa, who is somewhat beautiful, a wicked stepmother, and some supernatural gifts.  A bird that cannot be caged by the lot of women in that day and time.

It evokes the cold and dark, the people living on the edge of survival in a severe climate of months of winter (sounds familiar lately!), which I think is in the spirit of the original.  And I suppose I can get over my ire with Katherine Arden because she actually lived in Russia a year before creating her own retelling of the tale, so she was better suited. But while there is the frost king, there is only a hint of mention of Baba Yaga.  The magic/spiritualism lies in a man, Konstantin, coming to their town telling them to turn away from the nature and demon worship they engage in to stay alive and keep the nefarious forces bound and at bay, in favor of the one Christian God.  This wreaks havoc, of course, and Vasilisa, who shares her ability to see the demons with her stepmother in a delicious plot element, helps to save her people from the damage caused by people turning away from their nature worship.  While her stepmother is afraid of the demons she sees, Vasilisa communicates with them and befriends them, and is simultaneously hated by her stepmother for it.  And I do like that the relationship between Vasilisa and her half sister Irina is close and loving instead of spoiled, like it was in the original.

Even though the plot diverges more from the story that I know, it was atmospheric and beautiful, and I liked that Vasilisa finds a way out of the typical entrapments available to adult women to continue on the story of her being in her power and being herself.  I love love love a witch and I love an unexpected and retold tale.  Even if I did want it to be my story, I can concede that she pulled it off. And of course there is a sequel, so this also counts for the first book in a new to you YA or middle grade series.

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Vassa in the Night, Sarah Porter

So, I loved When I Cast Your Shadow, so Vassa in the Night, although published sooner, had somewhat of a bar to reach.  A standard.  A high standard that I would need a step stool to reach myself.  I didn’t like it as much as When I Cast Your Shadow, but I don’t love Porter’s work any less than I did.

Vassa sticks more closely to the original story of Vasilisa the beautiful, but set in modern day Brooklyn. I am glad I wasn’t peeking at this one There is Baba Yaga, the wooden doll, the hateful part sister, and the journey to bring light back to her house.  The prologue is gorgeous and made me excited that I was digging into another Porter novel, when the night is trapped by Baba Yaga.

You can’t love Sarah Porter unless you are okay with things becoming completely weird and gruesome.   Unless you crave it. I don’t know how it is with her Lost Voices trilogy,  but in this one and When I Cast Your Shadow, people have bloody deaths, maybe a resurrection, and things completely spinning off their axes in the lives of the characters.  Weird creepy horror times a million.  Maybe some body parts animated past the times of their deaths.  That sort of thing.

She better develops the relationship between Vassa and her late mother and the doll.  It is really its own subplot in the middle of the main plot madness other than just Vassa’s help like it is in the original.   There was a better  reason for her stepmother to despise her, other than in that possessive of your man, fairy tale way.  Vassa is stronger in herself and her sense of family after the twisty and strange debacle, much like Arden’s Vasilisa.

Of course I love Vassa and want to write her, she doesn’t take any crap.

And I think the reason I liked her other book better was I loved how she perfectly wrote the ambivalence of family members toward someone who is using.  How you can love and hate them and those feelings can polarize whole families.  Members who are pulled in and duped and still love fiercely, those who stand back for self preservation and are painted as enemies because their refusal to enable is cast as ‘not understanding’.  Vassa had its relationship depth, but not the artfulness of how she wrote that family dynamic.

Both of these books feature beautiful writing and those statements about life you didn’t know were true until you read them and you knew they were true all along.  You love the dark, the minor demons who aren’t the real antagonists, the magical twists and how Vasilisa is magical in her own.

I feel like fairy tales lend themselves well to re-tellings because the characters are flat.  You already know what they have to do but you can color in your own motives and backstories. You can make a classic plot that already has its staying power your own.

I am at a point with my novel where I am not in the heat of drafting and I am meeting with my teacher before I spiral into the passion of the revision.  So I used that tiny bit of space to read a second book and get in one of them on audio!  (Vassa.  It didn’t have whispersync and I have used my audible credits a full month before they refresh.) The luxury.  Maybe I should have split this into two posts so when I am back into the fervent novel work I still have another post on deck to buy me time.  But I am glad I didn’t put this on hold to novel.  This is a welcome change of pace.  A break from the anxiety when I am stalled.

Comments/likes/shares!  Pls.

Ladies Kicking Butt in 1800s England

The reading theme of women taking charge of their lives in historical fiction continued into the first two weeks of the New Year.  January sucks, but that’s what books are for.

Both books I am talking about today are different in detail but have the same idea of women pushing out of their confined roles and prescribed goals to find their own sense of contribution and use.  They are also similar in that they are starts of series, even though one wraps up better as a standalone novel and the other cuts off just as a new chapter has already started. I’ll always love the theme of being useful because I would never be able to be purely ornamental either.  If anyone asked me to be ornamental in the first place.   They might not, ha.

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Lady of the Ashes, Christine Trent

A woman who already defies convention as an undertaker in Victorian England becomes further elevated and independent when her husband becomes increasingly daft and reckless in his pursuit of even greater fortune.  The novel is not just about her, though.  The author works hard to paint a clear historical context for her story.  The setting is a character in and of itself. Not just the lives of women but the political movements and lives of the much more mobile men are talked about to intersect with her story.  There is even a significant plot thread dealing with Queen Victoria and her devastation over losing Albert.  There are plot lines having to do with the relationship between America and Great Britain regarding the Civil War in this country. I mean, and I may have said this before, if you are going to take all this time researching a context for a novel you should have a lot of that context actually in the book.

This one has a nice concluded  ending with the promise of the next book clear and looming.  I might pick up the next one at some point, too, but this one was a read down on the huge number of unread books on my kindle.

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Dark Days Club, Allison Goodman

A woman in Regency England  (before Victorian… 1812…yeah I had to look into that too) discovers she has inherited her questionable mother’s talents and her calling to defeat supernatural threats to the whole of England.  She was also born into privilege and society, and her supernatural gift manifest while she is being forced into this mold in her first Season, her coming out.  She has to make some choices about what world she is going to inhabit.

This one too was meticulously researched for the context, but there were no plot lines about males.  Not men who were existing in the actual time, that is. Men who had the same supernatural calling have some backstory.  I thought it was a little slow.  I hate to even say that because of the work that clearly went into the book, and maybe I am just saying that because I am picking up on the tedium of the life of society that looms ahead of the protagonist.  All the social rules and the focus on dresses and marrying a man after a few short encounters would have been a struggle for me to care about in that world.  I do like the tag line on the cover that “high society can be hell.”  True true.

This one stops just as she makes the major decision of the novel and has committed to that choice.  So there is a whole other part to be explored there.  She leaves it more of a cliffhanger than Lady of the Ashes.

So, a brief note about this blog in the coming weeks.  (duh duh duuuuuh)

I won a creative writing course via a short story contest hosted by the lovely Mia Botha at writer’s write.  I have done the 12 short stories and I will be doing it into January, but this was a separate contest hosted by the site.  Anyway, I won the course and I am using my time with the instructor to start on a novel I have had kicking around in my bead that needs to manifest.  I have eight Skype sessions with her to use before July, so I don’t know how much time I will have for reading for the blog.  I am going to be hopefully immersed in my novel at the time.  I have worked on dismissing my inner critic who thinks my writing is useless and I have Ms Botha to pull me along and help me give shape to the piece when the inner critic shows back up thinking we might be able to get back together.

Not only will the reading need to slow down, so will the knitting.  I am not allowing myself new projects right now and if I have a chunk of time I need to use it toward developing my novel, not on turning on an audiobook and blissfully knitting.  It’s an excellent past time, but my ultimate goal is not knitting.  I do love it though.

I am unsure the status of the 2018 Snow Read. I don’t know how I will do the brain down time.  I don’t know if I will need an epic novel or I will need something lighter. I need to go back to writing for ten minutes every morning instead of scrolling Facebook.  I am going to be cramming my margins. Cramming.

But this is what following my heart will be about.  Interesting that I had been unable to commit to any 2018 goals, training, reading or otherwise, which left a space for this course.  Usually my snow read is no question, it floats down out of thin air and demands to be read, and although I am excited about the book I did pick, it has not been one that has been tantalizing me from the margins.  It didn’t go on ebook sale around Christmas and demand the next place in line.

I don’t know what is next.

Comments/likes/shares!!!

 

My Other November Feast: Sarah Addison Allen Books

I am writing this post the week before Thanksgiving, so I can’t tell you if books were my only binge this month.  I am planning on spending it with friends, a woman who has lived her dream of having her own farmhouse and renovated the kitchen mostly on her own, and hosting us will be a celebration of a dream achieved.  So much thankfulness.

And the fact that I binged at all after a miniscule break is possibly a sign of addiction.  I did like two weeks of only writing related stuff and then I read two novels in the course of a week without a single page of it being on audio. Not a second was listened to.

But of course they were Sarah Addison Allen.   One of my binge worthy loves.

Sarah came into my awareness via my hunt for magical realism and I have already posted about my previous novels I have read by her, but I saw her on a library shelf on my Wednesday walk break and I missed her.  It was like seeing that an ex is single over FB when you just got over something fierce yourself.  I wanted her Southern world back of family, relationships between women, and magic.  Always, there is magic.

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Garden Spells

This was her first novel, published in 2008 and I wished I found her back then when I was filling my newly found free time with books.  This one had more overt magic in it than the other two I had read, and I always like a dash more magic.

Two sisters united by an absentee mother come back together when one of them is in trouble, and they both work through their prejudices about one another to be the family they both need. Yes, excellent.

I was as usual sucked into her world and her cast of fun, wholesome characters, and the world of the South, which I don’t have the personality to live in myself.  I could tell, though, that it was her first novel because she did not keep most of her secrets until the end.   It was clear why the characters took awhile to connect and bond based on their own personal traumas all the way through.  It was less skilled, and I still loved it, and I am still going to read First Frost, the sequel that just came out, and I hate saying a single negative word about her because she writes magic to which I can only aspire.  And I am assuming this novel got her into publishing…which is hard enough in and of itself.   And it’s the highest rated on Goodreads of all her books, even though they all hover around a rating of 4.

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Lost Lake

This was actually the first one that started the recent binge, but I reviewed Garden Spells first because it was her debut novel.

A widower goes to find an estranged relative in her struggling vacation resort and finds herself again in this one.

Spoiler alert:  everyone gets found.  But if you don’t like that, don’t read this book and see how they all do so.  Sarah is about everyone finding a home in her novels with their best possible relationships.  I liked that there is a significant piece in this one about friendships between women in this one.  There is in the following book I review of hers as well, which did not play as much into Garden Spells which was more about family and love and with more magical realism.  Not as much magic in this one, but the setting of a resort around a lake has it’s own magic and it was enough for me.

This one has a novella prequel.  Maybe I will read it but I didn’t like Kate’s late husband because I am not supposed to like him and I don’t know if I want to hear more of him.

 

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The Peach Keeper

I read this over the summer but waited until I read other books to post.  I had it on audio and I can never keep an unread book of hers on my audio list for long.

This one is heavy on overcoming the family reputations to build friendships.  It is about women who are fighting to get advantages over each other and it letting them blind them to their relationships with each other being the real gift in their lives.  It has been happening since the beginning of time that a man comes along and rends relationships between women, and in this particular story, the characters end up regretting that they allowed that to happen.  And I liked that.  And I liked that women are finding and rescuing each other.  She also ups the effect of setting like this one, as in Lost Lake, with a town that is known for being foggy.

A glance over of the Goodreads reviews indicates that a lot of people liked her other works better and felt they were more magical.  Some had some attitude about it being chick lit, but if you want Alice Hoffman knock off chick lit this is where you need to be and you need to own that this is what you want.  Own your needs.  But this was not as well loved as others in her retinue.

Thinking about Christmas reads in the next few weeks before I get into the year end roundups…really…year end roundups?  And my one reading challenge instead of three this year.

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Halloween Reads Kickoff: Castles

It’s time for this season’s round of Halloween-y books, as promised.

The weather as of late has actually helped me accept the realities of fall. It was cold and dark a few weeks, which I felt was too soon, and then the hurricanes blew up all kinds of hot air, which while I have enjoyed one more round of wearing summer dresses, I want it to be cool and Fall like.  I have apples I picked with my son that it’s not cool enough to bake into my favorite apple pie recipe on Pinterest.   Soccer games and practices are downright hot to sit in.

I have still been marking this wonky weather season with books about my favorite topics of magic and a little scary and witches and dark.  Even if it doesn’t feel right out to bake a pie.

When I was little I thought that living in a castle was the ultimate high life and there was a point when at least the Western world would have been in agreement with me on this.  Top of the food chain.

And indeed the first book I talk about here is that kind of castle mentality where it’s mostly money and magic and enchantment and where you want to be if you can get there.  All very British.

But then I grew up and realized the realities of castles. Even when they were the luxury they were still cold and drafty, despite being spacious and being able to house many nobles at a time.  Any modern story of people living in castles before they were given up on are stories that do not renew my desire to live in a castle.  They get too expensive to maintain, built in a time with different society structure, and are altogether impractical, even if people want to live on in them like they are maintaining their stately families of old. There may be one more castle book that feeds some childlike wonder, but even the adults in that one can’t take care of the rambling thing.

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The Enchanted Castle, Edith Nesbit

These are miniature British adults looking for and finding adventure on a holiday meant for them to spend time together away from their respective schools.  No adults who are truly in charge or supervising are part of this adventure where they find a castle with a little girl who lives there as a relative of the help and get themselves into debacles with magic. This book is very much about a magic ring, almost more than it is about the actual castle.  And the castle is rambling and beautiful but it is not old and dark and gloomy.  The creepier parts come through when the magic goes all wrong and gets away from the control of the children and they are trying to figure out how to make things right again.  The castle is enchanted, certain other magical things happen there as well, but it is mostly light and harmless magic.  Only maybe a tiny shade of Halloween-y. But a good read for kids and a little fun.

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

I see this one all over the internets as something really great.  I had to read Wikipedia halfway through to orient myself to what was really supposed to be going on in this story.  I couldn’t decide if the narrator was supposed to be a child, or a little crazy.  or dead.  Or something.  It starts out a little creepy in the beginning with the agoraphobic sister and the very childlike narrator and the not immediately clear reasons why they are shunned by the town.   It gets creepier as the story is revealed and why there is the degree to being shut in, and then ending with how the women subsist in the end.  And I really wanted to punch the interloping cousin who tries to take over the estate. I was kind of hoping we would find out some of the family that was talking and participating in the story was actually a ghost.

I may have reached the conclusion that Shirley Jackson is underwhelming, and it’s not just because she is subtle.  I like Algernon Blackwood’s subtle horror quite a bit.  It stirs up fear inside me without having to be heavy handed.  I read The Lottery in high school and then The Haunting of Hill House last year for my last round of seasonal Halloween reads and maybe I liked them better.  I don’t know.  I just expected more from this one. I have now done all her most popular stuff, maybe I would like something lesser known even more.  I am open to others commenting on what I may have missed to help me see what others really like in this one.

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I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

This one is lighter than Shirley Jackson, but it has its darker bits too.  I was anxious to read another Dodie Smith after 101 Dalmatians and how blatantly misogynistic that one was.  This one, thankfully, was much better on that count.  A family is struggling in genteel poverty in this coming of age story of a girl who is trying to help pull her family back together, her sister make a good marriage with the people who own the castle, and get her father back on track with writing.  It is stressful with how poor they are but it is still a charming and enjoyable book.

This book is not misogynistic but it reminds me how absolutely powerless women in genteel poverty were.  They are criticized for being ‘gold diggers’ but they don’t have a way of elevating themselves while keeping within their social class.  The only way up if their father is not taking care of them is to find a husband to do so.  She also finds her feelings about men changing and becoming more confusing.  I think the real strength of this novel is the likability of the narrator.  She is funny and smart, honest, and sweet.  She tries to make things okay for everyone but does not rush into her own happiness, but rather tries to be measured and planful at the end, not the heedless girl that she starts off with in the beginning.  Again, not as Halloween-y, but the castle is a major player of this story.

So, this was more of a gentle slide into the Halloween books season.  Next week is demons, so if you want something scarier, stay tuned!

Comments/likes/shares!!

5 over 500, Book 3: The Name of the Wind

So, I am awfully behind on my long reads this year.  I was done with my long reads last year by the springtime with The Time Seekers.  I have one beautiful week left of July and I have only made it to three long books.

Last year’s 5 over 500:

The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, Emily Croy Barker

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes

The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco

The Time Seekers, DA Squires

 

This year’s 5 over 500 so far:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke

A Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin

The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss

A lot of reading what I have is shorter things, which should mean I am ahead on my book count as last year, but I don’t have a hope of reading more books this year, with 43 so far.  I would have to read 60 books between today and the end of the year to match that, over 162 days in which to do it.  I would have to get through about a third of a book a day to make it.  Not entirely out of range, especially if I stick to shorter things.

But my goals are different this year.  It’s more about reading what I have, and I am doing that, but I am getting pulled back to reading challenges.  Inevitable.  They are seriously like a black hole or a succubus or crack to me.  A black hole made of crack full of succubi if you will.

So number 3 was in the title and anyone reading for a review of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss must be getting impatient and scroll happy.

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This is your quintessential fantasy book, in my opinion.  Granted I have only read The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring if I am going to model fantasy after Tolkien, but I feel this is similar.  A powerful wizard has to scrape his way up from devastation and nothing to realize his power in school, as well as trying to find out why his parents and actor troupe were murdered.  I am going to warn the reader straight out, though, that you plow through almost 700 pages and 25 listening hours to get like a fingernail of the story.  The last few pages involve a twist that leaves you hanging, and picks up interest. Typical of fantasy, it is not a standalone novel, and if you are okay with that, this could be for you.  It looks like this is a trilogy.  I have to be more hooked on a trilogy to do the other two, and I looked at the second one, The Wise Man’s Fear, is over a thousand pages.

I mostly liked the worldbuilding and the main character, who is smart but bold and impatient.  He has had enough time with loving parents and in childhood to have healthy attachments and empathy for others, but his time scraping to get by hardens him and he is much more bold and brash where this book leaves off than he was in the beginning. He lives by his wits on the fringe to keep stringing along tension.  He is not completely alone, he has friends, but he is certainly on the edges of society.  Further reviews suggest that he moves from being a wizard and a hero to even more powerful as the books go on, and who does not like a good quest to power?

Some parts felt slow, like when he was on the streets surviving, or when he takes an impromptu two day trip to find out more about the Chandrian and why they murder.  I know that the part with the dragon and the opiate resin he finds will be important elsewhere in the story, but where the book leaves off, I am wondering what that part was for.  His issues with a rich noble are not resolved, nor is his access to the Archives.

What I realized about fantasy while I was reading this and A Wizard of Earthsea is just how much philosophy this genre can incorporate when it wants to. Both of these dealt a lot with names and the meaning and power of knowing names.  Naming something usually means a degree of power over it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rothfuss has read and developed some of his own work from LeGuin.  And I am planning on reading more LeGuin and seeing how much more philosophy/theology that she pulls in.

Even trolling some of the reviews I see, some people loved this and some people thought it was mediocre or even crap.  I posted on another blogger’s Facebook page that I was reading it and I got some loves, but Facebook does not have a dislike button yet so I only got one side of the reviews.  Why doesn’t Facebook have a dislike button, after all?  Is it trying to deny one of it’s predominant purposes of starting crap between people?

While I know reading outside my genre is good for me, I just don’t know if in my heart I am a fantasy reader.  I don’t want to do A Song of Ice and Fire, especially after having a boyfriend who wanted the next book to come out so badly he would have a fit when Martin did not report on his blog that he was writing, but watching football instead.  I don’t want to depend on someone to stop watching football to let me know how a thousand plot lines and random deaths will make sense in the end.  I understand why Martin was more interested in the Jets.  At some point I should buck up and read the other two Lord of the Rings, but honestly I read Fellowship in like 2001 and I only saw that one movie so I am not holding out hope.

Probably I can relate better to YA fantasy, sad as that is for me to admit.

But I did get through a Read Harder challenge category.  I am finding I care less for Popsugar this year.  And also Read Harder gives credit to the authors who I admire who selected these categories.  I like it.  I am cool if Roxane Gay and Celeste Ng pick out something for me to consider.

And briefly in other news, I listened to an old episode of Literary Disco to get through some of my back podcasts (because I will die beside a mountain of unrealized hobbies) and I think I need to listen to it more to sharpen my book critiquing skills.  Yeah.  Awesome yet funny book discussions galore.

Comments/shares/likes for please!!

 

 

Mermaids!

I doubt few things are more interesting or appealing than mythical creatures whose intention it is to destroy men.  Fewer things are more timeless than destruction, seduction, and curiosity.

What could be more timeless than the mermaid whose purpose it was to drive men mad in the pursuit of them? And then the countless attempts at recreating these creatures in legends and curiosity exhibits?

The few books in this post to sample the topic of mermaids treat them all differently.  And it does not include all the mermaid books I would like to read or all the circus/sideshow reads in my book hoarding situation.

the mermaid's sister

The Mermaid’s Sister, Carrie Ann Noble

This was a either a Kindle First or a discounted price treasure and was the winner of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2014 for Young Adult fiction.

This one is as magical and mythical as a mermaid story gets. It is a fairy tale with the usual dose of nefarious characters and intentions, magic, and larger than life characters.  Two girls raised as sisters and one is becoming the mermaid she was meant to be, making the other sister, who is trying to get her to the ocean where she belongs out of love, wonders what this means for her.  Is she meant to turn into a stork, like her own legend of origin suggests?  What about the boy that is almost like a brother figure to her who is helping her try to save the sister and her feelings about him that just won’t be controlled?   All sorts of drama, darkness, and magic. Characters in this one actually have tattoos to immunize themselves from the curse of madness that seeing a mermaid can set upon one. And some regular teenage crises too just to keep it real.  I liked the audio with this one, and I am not at all surprised that it stood out enough to get an award for being the new kid on the block.

the book of speculation

The Book of Speculation, Erika Swyler

Also a debut novel, interestingly.  Strong family themes (similarly to The Mermaid’s Sister) in this tale of mystery and an inter-generational family curse that has to be untangled in time to save the latest generation from the same fate.  A librarian comes into possession of a book that helps him to unravel the reason why his mother and grandmother, both with mermaid abilities to swim and perform in a traveling show, seemed to drown themselves on the same day.  Again, the mermaid’s otherworldly, obsessive appeal is also talked about here as well as the mermaid being part of a show. Because what else would a woman with an uncanny swimming ability and in need of support do with herself back in times past?  Especially a woman to whom men felt an unexplainable draw? There is also a lot of reference to Tarot and reading Tarot cards to amp up the atmospheric mystery.  Sara Gruen endorses the novel on the cover, and people who like Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants and At the Water’s Edge) will probably like this one too. And the ending has just a bit of a twist on it.  So, worth the time.  I also have the prequel that I didn’t get to in time for this post. Shame on me.

the museum of extraordinary things

The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman

I coveted this one for awhile before it came up on an Audible sale and I snagged it. Alice Hoffman is an author who I have hoarded up, and this one reminded me of why and that I need to get crackin through all her other stuff. It was one I was excited to procure, that I had not read yet which could be a Reading Challenge category.

While this one is more popular than some of hers (I am defining popular by the number of reviews I see on Amazon), it does not appear to be as much so as The Dovekeepers or The Marriage of Opposites.  This one just hinted right at the get go of being atmospheric, set in turn of the century NYC, one of my favorite novel settings for some reason, and it did not disappoint.  Have I mentioned before in my posts that NYC always has had this draw for me and for about ten minutes a year I think I could actually live there, when I currently live in a beautiful home in the country and driving to the nearby small cities can get overwhelming for me? A home where I regularly enjoy the benefits of living where I do? Yeah.  Then I am down there visiting a friend and I see children my son’s age boarding the subway and I have a panic attack imagining if that was me with my boy.

Alice Hoffman intersects personal histories in the context of the setting like only she can do.  A girl born with webbed fingers to a man who owns a sideshow museum and is groomed for performance as a mermaid in a tank, essentially as a prisoner, a Jewish boy who separates from his father after his father tries to commit suicide, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster, and the intense political climate of the haves and have nots.  There usually aren’t even ten minutes of the year where I want to live in turn of the century NYC, but I love to read the tales of immigration, coming of age in a fast changing but still traditional world, people trying to hang onto their personal history as well as responding to the world around them in order to survive.

This book was everything I wanted it to be. Engrossing, intense, painfully real. I listened to it during driving in the rain which seemed to intensify it even more.

Mermaid books that I can’t miss?  None of these are romance novels, and I thought I saw some romance novels in the mermaid category, which would make sense, given then are supposed to drive men crazy.

In my own mermaid moment it is finally warm enough to swim in the lake with a wetsuit.  The fact I own a wetsuit and like to swim in lakes makes me ultimately unsuitable for my NYC dreams.  I don’t feel like a siren, either, just a woman wrapped in some weird fabric trying not to  dead sea float for long enough for the neighbors to think I might be dead out there.

Comments/suggestions/shares? I always love them.